It’s been a crazy day on the comics distribution front. Since Diamond Comics Distributors announced in March plans to temporarily halt comics distribution because of the coronavirus, the question has been when we’ll see new comics start to hit direct market shelves again. Now Diamond has provided an answer, as one of their biggest customers has given a different one.
Let’s start with the Diamond news, which you can find on Newsarama. That article quotes from a letter sent to retailers and publishers, saying that “While there are many steps and conversations that need to happen between today and resuming distribution of new weekly product, we are currently targeting mid- to late-May with the hope that, as an industry, we can all work toward that timeframe.”
The way that’s worded is interesting, as it was not long after that DC put out a press release of their own, saying they planned to have a limited number of comics in shops on Tuesday, April 28, as well as on May 5 and May 12. “After surveying more than 2,000 stores across the U.S. and Canada, it became clear that many comic book store owners are finding new and creative ways to get books to the fans who want them,” the press release reads. They’ve also set up a comic shop tracker on their site so you can see who will have their comics on April 28.
So what exactly is DC doing to get comics out to shops?
Over at the Beat, Heidi MacDonald breaks down the way comics will get from DC into retailer’s hands — using two other distributors that aren’t Diamond. Those would be Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors, who, through some sleuthing, MacDonald has figured out are owned by two large comics retailers — Lunar appears to be associated with Discount Comic Book Service, a large mail-order retailer, and UCS is associated with Midtown Comics, the New York-based comic chain/mail-order business. I don’t know for sure, but my guess would be that these are Diamond’s two largest accounts. I use DCBS myself and have always been happy with their service, but of course I’m an end customer and not a comics retailer, so they’re entering into a new ballpark here.
Diamond has already sent out a statement reacting to the news, as noted by Newsarama:
“We value our partnership with DC and will continue to support them as a distributor. Our focus is squarely on getting our industries’ entertainment products in the hands of fans as quickly and as safely as possible. As we shared this morning with our vendors and retailers, we are currently building our restart plans and targeting mid- to late-May to being shipping new weekly product. If we see signs that it is safe to resume shipping earlier, we certainly will. However, with the limited number of retailers open and most customers on stay-at-home orders, our focus is on supporting our industry and the health and safety of our stakeholders.”
So far DC has only announced three weeks of comics coming via these two new distributors, so there’s no telling if this will become a long-term relationship or if it’s just here to fill the gap until Diamond is back up and running at full steam. John Jackson Miller offers some historical perspective on the situation, remembering that time back in 1997 when Marvel bought Heroes World, a mail-order comics retailer, and tried to turn them into a distributor. Retailers seem to be mixed on the news; you can read one set of reactions from some retailers not thrilled with the news over here on Facebook, and a different set of reactions here on Twitter.